Yejin Chang

College Student

New York City, USA

Hi! I'm a college student currently attending university in NYC. I'm studying literature, history, and political science.


I am a college student attending school in New York City. When I first heard that school would be moved online, I was walking from the library to the subway, getting ready for my hour-long trek home. The announcement was emailed to everyone in the student body. I immediately received frantic texts from friends, worried that we may never return to campus. There were rumors that students studying abroad were locked out of their dorms and forced home, without their belongings, when the pandemic first hit the countries they were in. We had items in dorms, lockers, and offices. We didn't know when or how we would be able to get our things. Over the course of the next few days, the university tried its best to maintain its stance that everything would be back to normal in no time; there would be no tuition refunds and all belongings left on campus would be shipped home. No tuition refunds, despite no one using the library, gyms, or cafeterias, meant tighter budgets. The first thing I cut was coffee. While at face-value not a big deal, coffee meant the beginning of a productive day. Coffee became a morning ritual, involving a nap on the subway, a run to the nearest coffee shop, and a not-so-glamorous exchange of crumpled dollar bills for a cup. I couldn't afford it all the time, so I limited myself to one cup before a special event, exam, or projected late-night studying. Coffee meant the brisk winds leftover from winter chilling the tips of my ears while my hands enveloped a warm paper cup. Coffee meant sitting on an ice-cold bench outside, crouching over notes, and trying not to spill anything on my papers. Coffee meant a special treat when I knew I was about to be overwhelmed, a hug from a friend when friends weren't around. Coffee meant a few seconds of reprieve during an 8 A.M. class. Here's a tip: drinking something is the perfect way to conceal a yawn. Making coffee at home wasn't a simple task for my family. We had the coffee machine that sits in our house for what feels like forever. I remember my mother pouring a cup from it when I was ten years old. It's a simple drip coffee machine. The machine was once white, but now it's a splotchy light brown. The coffee pot is a light amber color, no longer clear after its many uses. While it's still capable of producing coffee, the taste is always a little off, slightly metallic. When quarantine began, I tried to clean the machine out, hoping that there's still some life in it. Three days of scrubbing later, I put the coffee machine back in its home on the countertop. There's no changing the taste of the dirty water the pot makes. I started looking into drip coffee machine alternatives. I felt as though buying a hefty appliance would defeat the purpose of cutting off coffee during quarantine; my goal is saving money, not live in luxury. Espresso machines were out of the equation. Moka pots and french presses looked appealing, but I was afraid using one of those appliances would make the coffee experience too time-consuming. Resigned and caffeine-less, I spent the rest of my first week in quarantine refreshing my email, fiddling with my phone while in online classes, and wasting my time on social media. I found my coffee solution while wasting my time: whipped coffee. Whipped coffee itself, the newest Generation Z trend, wasn't an important part of the coffee routine. My solution came from its ingredients: hot water, sugar, and instant coffee. In my desperate search for an appliance, I forgot about the simplicity of instant coffee. My mother always said that food tastes best when someone else makes it for you. To me, that statement rings true-- coffee out of freeze-dried grounds tastes nowhere as nice as one from a street corner. The taste, while not being reminiscent of New York City college life, did remind me heavily of high school. High school instant coffee meant pouring over sheets upon sheets of loose-leaf paper, scattered across the floor of my childhood bedroom, texting friends at midnight about the newest music videos, and writing stories filled with platitudes and cliches until the wee hours of the morning. Rediscovering instant coffee revived my love for writing. I started to add brief moments when I can make and drink coffee into my morning routine. I'd now sit outside, basking in silence and enjoying a cup of coffee while scribbling done my thoughts. In the midst of the confusion from the pandemic, I've found that writing something, regardless of what those words may be, is the most comforting activity that can be found. I'd spend an hour or two outside writing, preferably with pen and paper, while drinking coffee.

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